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WDW Trip Planning Guide Reader Feedback

by Brian Bennett



Now, as has become our custom, we'll review some reader responses to recent Notes From the World material before we move on to cover some new letters...

About traveling just after Thanksgiving, Chip writes: Hi Brian, great site and thanks for your quick response on theme park ticket prices. Here is my question. We will be going to WDW and staying in the concierge garden view in the Hawaii bldg.. I just was curious and keeping my fingers crossed that the crowds will hopefully start to thin out after our arrival on November 30th. Our stay is through December 5th. Even though I can't change our dates, what do you think the parks will be like during our stay??


Since you're arriving after Thanksgiving, you'll see a pretty big amount of people at the beginning of your trip, but it will drop off throughout your stay.

Reports I'm getting about this year is that you should expect things to be busier than normal at least through mid week (the second, third, and fourth), but you'll see a noticeable improvement.

About Downtown Disney transportation, Pat writes: Hi, Brian, Thanks for the great site! I'd just like to add a note to your response to Jennifer about the Downtown Disney Resort transportation, especially the drop-off / pickup being in the charter bus lots. I found this not only to be inconvenient (especially at Animal Kingdom, where it is quite a long walk to the lot) but dangerous! There are no designated waiting areas, so people had to wait in a numbered bus parking spot in the middle of the lot with all the buses pulling in and out around you. This was very dangerous with small children and tired parents.

One night we had the bus in the next spot pull out while our bus was loading a handicapped person and a line of people waiting to get on our bus was standing between the two buses. It irritated me and frightened me every time we used the bus. I wrote to Doubletree and complained about it - got a free tin of cookies in response - but I still will not go back there until the bus situation was changed.

My family & I stayed at the Doubletree in May, 2000 for 6 nights. The hotel was fine, not as much Disney magic, but having the separate bedroom was nice. It should be noted that the Doubletree is the farthest hotel from Downtown Disney (It didn't look like it was on the artistic maps of the area).

Thanks for the note. I'd noticed that "load in the middle of the parking lot" thing before, but never had to experience it firsthand.

Following up, Pat writes: You're welcome! That middle-of-the-lot loading really left a bad memory of an otherwise fabulous trip. I'd stayed at other Downtown Disney resorts on a couple of earlier trips (1979, 1989) and at those times the hotels had regular bus stops like the Disney-owned resorts do now. I guess with all the hotels Disney has added, there just isn't enough room, but it sure added to the "poor relation" feeling I got during the 2000 trip (i.e. Downtown Disney resorts were just 'second cousins' and no longer considered part of the Disney 'family').

Thanks for a great site and all your work on it!

Thanks Pat.

I think there was a distinct change in the transportation policy at the Downtown Disney resorts in the late '90s. The buses that ran to the Downtown Disney resorts used to be standard WDW Transport buses with the same painted logos and so on. Now they are different. Perhaps they're still contracted through WDW Transport, but I doubt it. I suspect that they're contracted by a third-party provider and that's why they're treated just like the offsite resort buses.

Erin shares: Hi Brian, in last your update, you recommended someone look into staying at some of the on-property resorts, including The Disney Institute. I have stayed there and it was really nice, however, it is not listed on the Walt Disney World Resort list at anymore. They will be tearing the buildings down and rebuilding them as a Disney Vacation Club resort, named Sarasota Springs, themed after the Sarasota Springs area in New York State. It'll be a few years before they are ready for guests again. I've heard that they have started pulling some of the buildings down already.


I thought the Villas at the Disney Institute were still operating as of now with only some of the buildings being knocked-down for reconstruction.

I'll check into it.

I emailed Sue Holland, who happened to be at WDW at the time, and Sue replied:

"Brian, The entire Disney Institute (lodging) is closed. The golf course & the restaurant in the golf clubhouse (can't think of the right word) are open, but that's it. Maybe the spa is open, too. But, nobody can stay there and CRO doesn't know when they'll start taking reservations again."

So, there you have it. Erin was right and I was wrong.

Lori writes: Hi Brian, I just wanted to respond to Cathy, who asked this:

"This may sound like a weird question, but I've heard it discussed somewhere before. It is about wearing duct tape on your feet when doing all of the walking at the parks. My feet and lower back are the things that give me the most trouble. Any suggestions would be very helpful."

I went to WDW in September after having chronic foot pain for the last few years. I think the most important thing, after making sure you have good, comfortable pair of walking shoes, is to make sure you take breaks throughout the day and just sit and rest for 15 or 20 minutes. Those breaks can make a huge difference in your comfort.

Regarding walking shoes, I would recommend you visit a running shoe store if you've got one in your area. There are many different kinds of shoes at a running shoe store, including ones that are specifically walking shoes, which is what you'd want for something like WDW. They provide a bit more rigid support that running shoes, which are designed to be flexible, so the walking shoes will give you better arch support. Let the store employee know what problems you've been having and that you need something supportive for the theme parks, and they should be able to help you find something with a great fit.

There are many things a podiatrist can do for you as well. Mine has taped my feet for short periods of time using a medical kind of tape, but something like that wouldn't last for a long trip to the theme parks. There are alternatives such as arch supports, custom-made orthotics, cortisone shots, etc., so I would definitely encourage you to seek some medical assistance.

Just try not to overdo it, ice your feet at night to help take down any swelling/inflammation, and have a great time!

Thanks Lori.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled email...


Wendy writes: Hi Brian! I've been an avid fan of the site and your columns for quite some time now. I was reading your WDW Trip Planning Guide and the section on whether or not to buy a package struck a familiar cord with me. I thought I'd share my insight on this in the hopes that it might help someone who might otherwise not be able to afford a long trip to WDW, especially at a Disney Resort.

I've found that it's been worth it, for us, to buy a package because we can send in money every paycheck up until, I think it was six weeks before our date of arrival. Last time there were fiveof us sharing a room at what was then Dixie Landings. I made the reservation for the Deluxe Magic package for all of us (that is the one that includes the meals isn't it?) and we figured out the cost fiveways. Since we made the reservation fourteen months ahead of time, we each were able to send in a check or credit card payment, with the reservation number on it, whenever we wanted. I basically only had to send in around $65 a paycheck to enjoy six nights at Port Orleans and all the food I wanted along with the park passes. It was as if I paid nothing for the trip which is what everyone else said! And all at Christmastime at that! Anyway, that's my two cents.

This time, we are doing the same only staying at The Polynesian. It's still going to be around $65-$70 a paycheck but we are planning on staying 7 nights. This time around we have opted to do the package without the meals but with the two flex features which we can use for two meals. It's a lot less and we found that with the meals included we were never able to use up all of the money we put into it ($55 per person a day is a lot, especially when what ever is not used is rolled over to the next day). We had so much food credit left over that we left the German Biergarten with over 22 bottles of wine. Had to spend it somehow!

Our waitress was very happy, needless to say, with that tip...


Thanks Wendy.

Your approach certainly may be helpful for some folks out there. My own problem with it is just that I don't want Disney holding my money that long (but then again, I'm a DVC member so I suppose I'm a bit of a hypocrite on that one). :)



Chris asks: You have a hotel review section where people can rank the hotels for WDW. I remember seeing a reference to it in one of the updates. I am having trouble finding it- looking in the accommodations section. I might be looking right over it, but can you help point me in the right direction?



MousePlanet now maintains a bulletin-board-based review system for resort and restaurant reviews. Be aware, though, that the review system has only been up for a few weeks, so I don't know how many reviews are now in the system. Hopefully you'll find some help there, though.



Following up, Chris wrote: Thanks, exactly what I was working for. Is this linked anywhere on your accommodations section?


I'll check to see, Chris, but I think so. In any case, there is a link to "reviews" up in the header of every MousePlanet page (under the MousePlanet logo). By the way, there's links to other sections of MousePlanet that are well worth checking out there, too.



Amie writes: Brian, I have a big dilemma. I have reservations at Coronado Springs at a really great rate (using code bbg)... something like $88/night including tax. My husband is in the military andwe were on the waiting list for Shades of Green / Contemporary North Garden Wing. Well, the rate for that is $98/night. I just received a call saying that the room had become available. We're staying 4 nights so it would only add about $44 to our budget. Our children are three and six years of age and it's my husband's first trip. Is it worth it to change hotels? I've been searching & I can't tell if the rooms are really THAT much bigger.

What about the advantage of staying on the monorail system? The Shades of Green operator said that we're only closer to the Magic Kingdom and it would be the same distance to the other parks via bus if we stayed at the other resort. I have to make up my mind by Thursday. Your opinion?



For $44, I'd go stay at the Contemporary. The monorail access will be very nice with small kids, and the rooms are significantly larger than at Coronado Springs.



Lynnette writes: Hi, Brian, thanks for all of your great information. We are counting down the days to our trip. Our only concern is about our wonderful brother-in-law who is at a low point in his fight against cancer. Things may turn around, but they may not. What are your thoughts about trip insurance and have you had any feedback on particular companies?

Thanks for all that you do for Disneyphiles.



I'm sorry to hear about your brother-in-law.

I've never really researched trip insurance because I've never had the need for it personally. Given your circumstances, it sounds like it very well might be worth while for you.

I'd suggest you go to a local travel agent and ask about policies and overall background on trip insurance. They're very likely to be completely up to speed on what's available and what would make sense for you and your family.



Kate writes: I was looking for rates to camp at Fort Wilderness Campground and could find none. I went to the reservation area thinking rates would be available there and all I found was reservation information for renting a cabin at Fort Wilderness. Nothing on renting a campsite. VERY Disappointing.



I'm sorry you were disappointed that you didn't find the information you were looking for. Actually, the WDW Resorts from A to Z page (in the section on prices) has that information. I put it all on one page so that folks can compare prices (and other amenities) between the various WDW resorts.

Also, this page has descriptions of the campsites on the Fort Wilderness Campground Fast Facts page.

By the way, just a quick comment. MousePlanet is not affiliated with the Walt Disney Company, so your sharp statement, "VERY Disappointing," may have been misplaced if you thought that my site was owned and operated by the Walt Disney Company.



Lin writes: Hi Brian, I'm taking my family to WDW for the first time ever and I am addicted to all the information and planning, including MousePlanet!

Can you tell me what the hours for the fireworks & park closing times are likely to be for February 2003 (week before President's Day). I know they're not available yet on the Disneyworld site, but I was wondering this might be something that is relatively consistent from year to year. I want to try to schedule dinner reservations for Fantasmic and IllumiNations & plan our days but can't because I'm unsure of times etc.

Thank you so much.



You might want to check out the page on general park operating hours. For February, you'd probably want to assume the shortest possible park hours since that's one of the least-crowded times of the year to visit WDW. Also, keep in mind that Spectromagic and the Magic Kingdom fireworks are likely only to run on Saturday nights during that time of year.



Don shares: Brian, I noticed a fair amount of information about the Amtrak Auto Train on your wonderful MousePlanet site. You may be interested in taking a look at the website that I maintain that provides in-depth information about the Auto Train.

I'm not connected in any way with Amtrak and the website is wholly noncommercial. It started as a simple "riders guide" that I wrote about the Auto Train when I discovered there was little such information on the Internet. I take the Auto Train down the Florida each year to visit my parents, ending with a visit to WDW, and update the material as necessary after each trip. If you wish to link to the site as a source of Auto Train information for your readers, let me know.



Just after I sent you that note, I made the update to my Auto Train page, along with a link to your site.

Thanks again!



Freecia writes: [For that reader that wrote a while back about traveling to WDW with a cast...] I saw a plastic "cast cover" for sale, by the canes, at my local Longs Drugs. They're made of stretchy plastic, comes in child and adult sizes, and are intended for showers and such. If their child doesn't have a waterproof cast, please ask the doctor about this option. It'd be useful for showers/baths at home anyhow .:)


Thanks for the suggestion!



Christine asks: Hi Brian, first let me say that I love reading your "Notes from the World" columns! They have helped me tremendously in planning my upcoming trip. We are planning to visit WDW for the first time ever in February. We are staying in Fort Wilderness Cabins (me, my husband, two year old son, and my husband's parents). We just booked our room reservations after and through reading the website decided to purchase an annual pass to get a discounted room rate. We saved about $90 per night! My question to you lies in what the reservation cast member told me at the time of my booking.

She said, paraphrased, that you need to get your voucher exchanged into an actual pass before you check into the cabins or they will not honor the Annual Pass room rate. She said that previously some people were able to check in with just the vouchers but that it was discovered that there were people buying vouchers and "renting" them out to others for profit and thus allowing people to use the voucher to pay less but not actually ever use it since the voucher itself has no expiration. OK, I can see where that would be a problem, so I asked where I could do that in the evening hours in February (don't most of the parks close early in the off season?) She told me that Epcot closes the latest (9:00 PM) and I would need to exchange it there. I got to thinking after I got off the phone with her that our flight from Seattle arrives around 7:00 PM and with all the airport and rental car stuff, we might not get there in time. Do they keep the ticketing booths open right up until closing?

Is there anywhere else to get an Annual Pass validated, such as in the Downtown Disney area like at Disneyland? Or do you think that a 7:00 PM arrival is going to allow sufficient time to get all of this done? Having not been there before I have no idea what a realistic travel time is, nor any idea how long it takes to get an Annual Pass validated (I have discovered it can take up to an hour at six flags!)

I apologize if this has been asked and answered before, I did a search of your site but couldn't find an exact answer but I am pretty search-impaired :-/

Thanks in advance - and keep up the great work!



What I would do is just deal with things at check in time. Certainly the Cast Members can check you in when you arrive "on the honor system." You could then stop by at the office later (even a day or more later) after you've done the voucher exchange to confirm that you have annual passes.

You can also get it handled at the Guest Relations offices at Downtown Disney or Downtown Disney West Side, as you surmised, but that doesn't make things much more convenient for you.

If it was me, I'd stick to my guns at check in, and just make arrangements to stop by later in the trip to confirm that you have Annual Passes.



Kim writes: I'd just like to throw in my 2 cents worth about when to visit the World. My boyfriend and I were there this past September and I don't think I'd ever go back any other time. There were NO lines. NONE. We never had to wait for anything, not even Space Mountain or Tower of Terror. We were able to get seating for a character breakfast at literally the last minute. And often during the day when we were going from the parks to our hotel or back, we had the bus to ourselves.

As a result, we were able to cover ALL of the Magic Kingdom in less than a day, ditto on MGM. And we were even able to ride our favorite rides twice.

And the weather could not have been better! It wasn't as hot or humid as I thought it would be (I'm originally from New Orleans, currently living in Chicago), and it only rained lightly twice.

I know that going to WDW during that time of year isn't possible for everyone, but I would highly recommend it if someone has the chance.


I second your motion.

Actually, you really got lucky though. It's often VERY hot and humid in early September... and if you catch it just right (or just wrong) you can get some severe weather from a passing hurricane.

Even so, I really enjoy visiting in September and October, too.

Well, I hope you enjoyed the reader feedback for the WDW Trip Planning Guide!  Feed free to send more questions or comments to!

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Brian's Archive - Contents

I've always gotten email about the WDW Trip Planning Guide, but since we added the feedback form to the site several months ago, the number of questions has increased dramatically!  I do my best to answer each and every question personally, but I've noticed that a lot of the questions are asked again and again.  The question that one person asks might very well be the question that someone else is wondering about.  Thus this page!

So...I'll post reader email and feedback every once in a while, because the question someone else asks might be the same one you're thinking about yourself!


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